Congress approves credit card changes



As congressmembers were hammering out the bailout plans for Wall Street last week, there were angry mutterings around the nation about why the bad behavior of the big boys was being rewarded while ordinary citizens—many of them victims of large predatory corporations—were not being aided.

It was just at that moment that House Resolution 5422 came up for a vote in the U.S. House. The measure would curb predatory and deceptive corporate behavior against credit card holders.

The bill would end double-cycle billing, with which companies calculate the latest interest charges based on previous billing cycles, unless payment is more than 30 days late. It requires companies to mail bills 25 days before the due date instead of the current 14 days. It prohibits charging interest on debt that is paid, on time, during a grace period. It requires card companies to give cardholders 45 days notice of any interest rate hikes. And it prohibits knowingly issuing cards to minors.

Nevada’s representatives, Democrat Shelley Berkley and Republican Jon Porter, both voted for it. Republican Dean Heller voted against it.

First Heller voted to send the bill back to committee, which would have effectively killed the measure without members being recorded against it. That failed on a 219-198 vote. Then Heller voted against the bill, which nevertheless was approved overwhelmingly on a 312-112 vote. (The Google news page logged 48 stories about the vote, compared to 1,271 on the corporate bailout and 941 about the O.J. Simpson burglary trial.) After the vote, the White House issued a statement saying that George Bush opposes the measure.

Meanwhile, another kind of bailout was also going on. On Sept. 16, financial services lobbyists held a luncheon for Heller at the Capitol Hill Club—$500 for individuals, $1,000 for PACs. According to the Sunlight Foundation, money Heller has received from financial services as “campaign contributions” amounts to 15.3 percent of his entire campaign fund.